Are you considering a blog redesign? If you’re like me, you started your blog with a free template, and, for many months, the free template worked just fine.
However, as my knowledge on the functional capabilities of blogs increased, I wanted more. I outgrew the free template so I visited hundreds of blogs. I took notes about what I did and didn’t like in preparation for updating my blog’s design.
Throughout my research, I noticed one key thing – I was the “reader” – the person visiting the blog. Approaching my blog’s redesign from the reader’s perspective gave me a clearer understanding of what was missing on my own blog. And, it gave me a new appreciation of how to improve the reader’s experience.
So, if you are considering a blog redesign, I’ve come up with five ways to improve your reader’s experience.
Tip 1 – Put your face out there and make it easy for readers to follow you.
Avatars are great. Talented designers can help you create all kinds of adorableness for your header. However, the bottom line is that readers want to “see” who you are. If you don’t put your face in your header, be sure to include a photo of you in the About section on your sidebar, preferably above the fold. That way, when readers land on your page, you are front and center.
While you are at it, put your social media buttons and “subscribe to me” box either in your header or on the sidebar above the fold. You want to make sure that readers don’t have to search for ways to follow you because, if readers have to search for this information, they’re more likely to give up and not follow you.
The photo collage above is my attempt to show you how our blog looks above the fold when you land on our site. Immediately, you (1) see us in the header and (2) our “Connect With Us” social media buttons and “Subscribe Now” are in the sidebar above the fold. We have our mini About Us page (3) that is located in in our footer because our head shots are in our header.
The rest of the photo above shows that we have a rotating photo gallery plus our blogroll below.
Tip 2 – Make navigating your blog painless.
Streamline your navigation. In the photo above, you will note that we have a very basic menu bar (1). Americans read from left to right, so the top left of your blog is prime real estate. We’ve placed a “call to action” in our top left menu bar and we call it “New? Start Here.” When you hover over that call to action, a drop-down menu appears that gives the reader the following choices: our About page, our Contact page, several Archives pages, our Disclosure Policy and our PR/Media page, which we call “Tooting Our Horn.”
To the right of “New? Start Here” is Our Blog Roll and to the right of that is a separate section for Recipes (we’re a food blog, of sorts). Then, to the right of Recipes, we have Resources (still under construction so bear with us!) and to the right of that is “Shop Toot Sweet”, which is our Amazon affiliate shop.
And, (2) is a Search box, which rounds out our Menu Bar. Simple – only five choices (six if you count the “Search” box).
Please note that the photo above is not “to scale”. Our Categories (3) are further down the sidebar. Our “Categories” define the types of posts we do, but they really don’t have any significance to readers, unless they are a regular reader. If they are a regular reader, they understand the “structure” of our blog and these “Categories” would have meaning to them from a navigational perspective. And, if they are new readers, who just want to explore our content, clicking on our “Categories” will take them to all the posts in those categories.
We call the Archives widget on our sidebar (also much further down the blogroll) “A Blast from Our Past.” For the longest time, we didn’t bother to put this widget on our sidebar because we have a rather robust “Archives” section under our “New? Start Here” menu tab. However, after a conversation with a potential advertising network, we changed our minds! They told us that advertisers look for that sidebar widget becausethey want to know how long you have been blogging and they want to know how often you post.
Advertisers could care less about the actual posts (well, they do to a degree – they want to know whether you are a craft blogger, a food blogger, a lifestyle blogger, etc. and where you will fit in with their advertising family), but they want to know, at a glance, how long you’ve been around and how often you are creating content. Remember: You have 10 seconds to make an impression.
Tip 3 – Give your reader choices.
What if a reader isn’t interested in what you posted that day? But, to see what else you may have posted recently, they have to scroll down the page until they find the next post, and the next one and the next one, etc. If you don’t give them choices, they are likely to leave. Poof! Ten seconds and they are off to the next blog. Give them an opportunity to stick around by giving them choices of reading material. On our blog, we give them 10 snippets (see photo above) to choose from on the front page. We post five days a week, so that’s two weeks worth of choices.
And, when they get to the bottom of the blogroll, they can choose “Next Page”. When they choose “Next Page” and they are on the “Next Page”, we also give them a “Previous Page” choice.
And, the best of all worlds – we give them a “Top of Page” button at the bottom of our blog. That way they don’t have to use the scroll bar to get all the way back up to the top!
Tip 4 – Make sharing your content easy.
Don’t forget to include clickable buttons to encourage your readers to share your content on social media sites. And, if you are active on Pinterest, don’t forget to install a “Pin It” button on your images so that when readers hover over the image (like the photo above), they have the opportunity to easily pin your content to Pinterest.
Tip 5 – Give the reader options within your post.
Your reader has read your post and has scrolled to the bottom. Now what? Do they go back to your home page? Do they try to find your archives? Make it easy for them. At the very least, if you have a WordPress blog, install the “Linkwithin” plugin. This cool little feature automatically shares a thumbnail of several of your posts (you set the number).
And, give the reader even more options – type in “Related Posts” and add your own and link back to them. Call it something fun, if you think “Related Posts” is too dry for your blog. How about something like “Want to Read More?” or “Don’t Leave Yet – Read These!”
Lastly, don’t forget your Footer. This is valuable real estate that is often underutilized. Add a Recent Posts section to your footer that links to other posts.
By: Carole, from Toot Sweet 4 Two